Friday, December 23, 2005

Sans Stats

Welcome, welcome, welcome. Another week is in the books, and that means it’s time for Friday’s installment of Sans Stats. Big week in sports, and baseball in particular, as hot stove season just turned up the gas. The non-tender deadline was Tuesday, but the new flurry of free agents was overshadowed by none other than Jesus himself. Or, at least aesthetically close.

Johnny Damon signed with the Yanks amidst mixed emotions from Yankees fans. You can read various opinions on the Damon signing by visiting any one of the Yankees links over on the left side of your screen, or even scrolling down (or clicking here).

The Red Sox responded swiftly, signing former Yankees catcher John Flaherty. Now with Flaherty’s .165/.206/.252 averages, the Red Sox can afford to deal Manny without a severe offensive repercussion.

I open with this topic not because of the vast information and opinions available, but because of the new Idiot of the Week. It was just last week that I crowned Skip Bayless with this title until further notice. Silly me to think that ESPN wouldn’t send out some other hack columnist to snatch the title just a week later.

On Wednesday, during the tumultuous aftermath of the Damon signing, ESPN’s Jim Caple penned this piece of shit. (Editor’s Note: I know some are offended by profanity, so I try to keep it to a minimum. But vulgarities are meant to add emphasis, and I really can’t think of a better term to describe Caple’s so called writing).

His main reason to bash the Damon signing: the Yankees strict dress code. Jigga-what? So you’re telling me that Johnny Damon won’t perform in New York because he has to cut his hair and shave his beard? Oh, oh, they’re just symbolic of his free-spirited nature, which makes perfect sense! Remember when the Orioles stole the free spirit from Albert Belle?

Of course, Caple uses Giambi as precedent, saying that he wasn’t the same player after he cut his hair and shaved his goatee. ‘Scuse me? Yes, I realize that his marks didn’t quite match his MVP year in Oakland, but he still hit 40 homers in each of his first two seasons with the Yanks – and still kept that OBP above .400.

But what else would you expect from a guy who wrote a book called The Devil Wears Pinstripes?

Moving to the gridiron, and a story that really hits the heart, New York Jets receiver Wayne Chrebet is retiring from the NFL after 11 seasons. Chrebet’s story is well-known, an undrafted free-agent from Hofstra who became synonymous with the Jets franchise. The term “great white hope” is tossed around from time to time, describing a white guy playing a skill position other than quarterback. But at 5 foot 10 and 188 pounds, Chrebet truly was the great white hope.

Speaking of the Jets, how did Jonathan Vilma get snubbed for the Pro Bowl? Am I just a jaded Jets fan? I’m not quite sure how a guy’s number of tackles represents his ability, but really, Vilma does lead the league in them. Doesn’t that at least count for something?

Keeping with the local theme, I came across one of those Insider links at that teased, "Jalen Rose still going for a Penny?" Penny’s contract expires in 2006, and such moves have become a trademark of Isaiah Thomas. I’m so numb to his GM regime that my initial reaction is, "well, it’s not like we could have signed anybody with Penny’s contract off the books, anyway."

That’s about it for today’s edition of Sans Stats. Merry Christmas, all (that’s what I celebrate, so that’s what I’ll say). But before we shut down for the holiday…

We already have THE Idiot of the Week, but Caple’s not the only one. Here’s the rest of the gang.

Fox Sport’s Kevin Hench: Because I found out he’s the head writer of the worst show to debut in 2005, Too Late With Adam Carrolla.
The Treasury Department: For not allowing Cuba to participate in the World Baseball Classic. Listen, guys, this is the WORLD Baseball Classic, and last time I checked, Cuba was part of the world.
Pac Man Jones: Because not paying your clubhouse dues and getting into an argument with an attendant really bolsters your already putrid reputation.
Ron Artest: Oops, I actually commended him last week. My bad. Brain fart.
Canada: Guy who intentionally broke someone’s neck or hyped up rookie?
Isaiah Thomas: He should be here weekly.
Jimmy Damon: Johnny is of Ruthian proportions? Guess he has a flair for hyperbole.
Johnny Damon: What Idiot list would be complete without him? Yeah, I’m still a little bitter over it, but whatever.

And finally, we here at the Sporting Brews send our condolences to the Dungy family. Not much needs to be said here. We can only imagine their pain.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


It seems I'm in traditional "blogger" (I HATE that word) mode today, posting multiple times. But I just had to throw this link up, since it is one of the funniest baseball related things I have ever seen.

My Sensible Reaction to Johnny Damon Signing With the Yankees.


O's Chasing Prior

The Cubs have been discussing possible trades for perturbed SS Miguel Tejada that would send 25-year-old starting pitcher Mark Prior to the O's. Of course, this wouldn't be a straight-up deal, as the Cubs are asking for SP Erik Bedard in addition to Tejada.

To counter this demand, the Orioles have suggested adding Cubs outfield prospect Felix Pie to the deal, but the Cubs have balked at that notion. It appears the problem here is Baltimore over valuing Mr. Bedard.

Okay, so he's only 26 and has shown tremendous potential, but he's never really shown it, save for a few flashes. Injury problems have limited his innings, and we all know that pitchers are succeptible to recurring injuries. Parting with Bedard may be a risk, but it would be a risk worth exploring for an arm like Prior.

Then again, Prior isn't exactly the healthiest guy, which may be what's stalling this deal. It therefore makes sense for the Cubs to include Pie in the deal, who will be 21 on Opening Day. His line from AA last year:


So it's apparent the Cubs aren't willing to deal a youngster who can absolutely mash the ball. True, his sample size isn't the best for an accurate assessment, but that kind of power is tough to categorize as a fluke. The Orioles can realistically forget about landing Pie, as the Cubs would be foolish to part with him.

But what about Prior for Miggy and a slightly lesser arm? I know they don't want to part with youngster Daniel Cabrera, but what about Bruce Chen? Would the Cubs bite on a Miggy and Chen for Prior move? I know that if I was Peter Angelos, I'd do it in a heartbeat.

The main concern of the Orioles, though, is that they'd be hindering their offense. But when pitching has been your team's weak spot over the past X number of years, parting ways with a bat to acquire an ace pitcher is a smart move.

The Orioles ranked seventh in the AL in batting average, eighth in OBP, fifth in slugging, and 10th in runs scored, so depleting the offense is a legitimate concern. But they have added Ramon Hernandez this off-season. Yes, he obviously won't put up Miggy-esque numbers, but he will provide some offense for the team, both by himself and because he sends Javy Lopez to the DH spot, where he may be able to mash the ball better since he won't have to squat for 3 hours a day.

Plus, the pitching will help make up for it. A rotation of Prior, Bedard, Cabrera, Lopez, and either Hayden Penn or John Maine obviously would be an upgrade over that same rotation, minus Prior plus Chen. Of course, that's considering the Cubs would take Miggy and Chen for Prior.

The Orioles should be working hard and long to figure out how to make this one work. They're stationed in a division where they won't be able to out-mash their opponents, so the logical approach would be to bolster the starting rotation, a goal that has eluded Baltimore for the past few seasons.

Advanced A Tampa Yankees

I’m making a valiant attempt to return to sanity today by evaluating the Class A Tampa Yankees. Still, I know that thoughts of Johnny Damon are still running through everyone’s head, and I’m sure many would appreciate some more thoughts on him. But, for my sanity and yours, let’s talk about another topic.

An apology is due, as I referred to the Charleston River Dogs as the Yankees Advanced A Level team a few times in the recent past. Of course, Tampa is the Advanced A team, while Charleston is the mid-level A squadron. I also said on Monday that I’d like to get to Double A Trenton, but a brain fart caused me to forget about Tampa.

Okay, enough apologies. Let’s go prospect huntin’.

Justin Christian, a 25-year-old utility infielder, played the bulk of the season with Tampa, starting in Charleston and ending the season taking one at bat for Columbus. And with a line like he posted for Tampa and the fact that he’s 25, it would only make sense to bring him into Ohio to start 2006.


Very impressive, I must say. And remember, he’s an infielder, which makes these numbers even more stellar. Hell, I’d take that line for a major league first baseman. Of course, it remains to be seen if he can reproduce those numbers at a higher level, but he’ll surely be tested in Columbus this year. And at 25, he may be close to major league ready, providing the Yankees with a viable utility man in the near future. The diagnosis: sign Cairo as a stopgap in 2006 and gauge Christian for 2007.

Baseball America has some kind words for our friend Mr. Christian:

Justin Christian is making himself difficult to ignore. Signed out of the independent Frontier League in July 2004, the Yankees second baseman just keeps on hitting at high Class A Tampa. He already had recorded a pair of three-hit games this week, and last night he added a four-hit game in Tampa's 8-7 loss to Vero Beach. Christian doubled three times, giving him 21 on the year between low Class A Charleston and Tampa, and he stole three bases, giving him 43 (in 48 attempts) between the two levels. He is hitting .324/.396/.474 in 247 at-bats in the Florida State League.

Unfortunately, the hitting prospects kinda end there. The only player with over 300 at bats that cracked a .400 slugging percentage was John Urick, and he batted .238. And as we move down the list, the strikeout rates also rise. Very disappointing for an Avanced A level team. That could be a big part of the reason they finished 22-44.

At least there’s a bright side to the pitching, as the team was highlighted by prospects Tyler Clippard, Phil Hughes, and our boy J. Brent Cox. Hughes did most of his damage down in Charleston last year, where he posted a 7-1 mark with a 1.97 ERA, 72 strikeouts (9.44 per nine), 16 walks (2.10 per nine), and only one home run allowed over 68.2 innings. His season ended shortly after arriving in Tampa due to injuries, but that didn’t stop him from going 2-0 with a 3.06 ERA, 21 strikeouts, 4 walks, and no homers allowed over 17.2 innings.

Clippard will be a Clipper this year, as he was a late season call-up for the team from Columbus. Though he only pitched one inning there, he notched two strikeouts in that time. But most of his season was spent with Tampa, where he posted the following line:


Oh yeah, and he’s only 21 years old. I don’t want to get over excited about this guy, but he has the makings of a home grown Yankees star. He’ll obviously need another year of seasoning in the minors, but with Mussina departing after this season, he could be a viable option for the rotation in 2007. And even if he was delayed until 2008, he’d still only be 23. I know all the fuss is over Phil Hughes, but Clippard could be the guy the Yanks have been longing for.

From Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper:

Getting plenty of questions about Clippard, which is not surprising, considering the number of Yankees fans out there, and the proclivity of some of them to think that any Yankees player not selected has been slighted. Clippard was close to making the list, he was in the 20-25 group. Good live arm with an advanced feel for pitching, he had no fears at busting guys inside and then working away once they're worrying about the inside pitch, which is rarer than it sounds at the high Class A level, but there were concerns that he's up in the zone too much and that his secondary pitches need some work. He can pitch some, but he was behind Brevard's Carlos Villanueva on the list of guys who just barely didn't make it, and on the list of guys who have a feel for pitching.

And finally, we move to the guy who closed out every game for Texas in the 2005 College World Series, J.B. Cox. Obviously, he’s drawing comparisons to Oakland’s Huston Street, considering they both accomplished the same feat at Texas. Cox only managed 27.2 innings in Tampa after signing, posting 27 strikeouts, five walks, a dinger, just eight earned runs and his WHIP was below one (0.90). We’ll once again give it up to Baseball America’s Jim Callis for some insight.

That said, I do like Cox and think he'll help the Yankees as a setup man in the near future, perhaps toward the end of 2006. He's not Huston Street, his predecessor as closer for Texas and Team USA, but he's not too far removed. Cox has the makeup to pitch in the late innings and a nasty slider that's a strikeout pitch. His second pitch is a sinker that runs in on righthanders. He took the loss in his pro debut for high Class A Tampa on Monday, giving up one run and two hits while recording two outs (both via the strikeout).

So that’s one hitter and three pitchers to get midly excited about. And if evaluating Tampa did one thing, it put the development of minor leaguers into better perspective. I went through and hashed out over 20 prospects from the GCL Yanks, the River Dogs, and the SI Yanks, but when the levels start to increase, the prospects are less numerous. Of course, this makes the analysis of the younger guys more interesting, since we’ll get to see which ones settle in and which fizzle out.

Only two left, Trenton and Columbus. And I’m sure we’ll find even thinner talent at those stops. The Quest for the 2008 Roster continues next week.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The Signing of Johnny Damon, Parts I & II

Can I possibly say something that hasn’t been said? I mean, we’ve been talking about this topic since the commencement of the off-season, and by now everyone has taken a definitive stance. And anyone who reads this here site knows what I think about this move. Yet, what else can I really write about today? Who is going to come here to read a faux scouting report on the Tampa Yankees?

I’m writing this at 1 a.m., about a half-hour after reading the news on, and I am not particularly happy. I know I’ll be more clear headed in the morning, while I ponder the move further over a few hundred cups of coffee. But I want to get this out now, so I’ll just rant for a while and finish it in the morning in a more reasonable manner.

The best way to start may be by conceding that, even in my enraged state, I understand that it makes the Yanks better for 2006. And, quite frankly, it’s not my money. If Steinbrenner thinks $52 million is an appropriate price tag for an increased chance of taking the 2006 World Series, well, then that’s his prerogative. What else can I really say? That I don’t agree with the philosophy of the principle owner of the New York Yankees?

Well, I don’t. Signing a lot of big name free agents was fun for a while, but it has since gotten out of hand. And please ponder this scenario: say something should happen to Mr. Steinbrenner in the not so distant future (God forbid). His partner and son-in-law Steve Swindal would take over. The big question there is: will he continue George’s budget trends? Or will he try to slash payroll to increase profits, much like the majority of Major League Baseball?

If he starts to slash payroll, the Yanks are in for some rough times, considering they now have big money tied up years down the road in Jeter, A-Rod, Matsui, Giambi, and now Damon. And then I’ll no longer be able to say, “hey, it’s not my money,” because while it still won’t be my money, it will no longer grow on trees, which is what the phrase subtly implies.

And now I’m going to friggin’ bed. I know I didn’t rail against Damon as much as I had thought, but 1) I’m sure I’ll think of more reasons I dislike this move by morning and 2) my entire case against Damon rests on the same principle: I believe that this is a bad long-term investment.

See ya in the morning.

It’s morning, and I really don’t feel that much different than I did last night. The same wrestling match remains: Damon’s current value vs. his future value. Here’s a bit more of beef in this regard.

His previous contract was four years, $31 million for the Red Sox, which paid him an average of $7.75 million per season. His raise with the Yankees, therefore, is $5.25 million per. Problem is, this raise is based off his performance with the Red Sox. Based on market value, Damon outplayed his contract with the Red Sox, hence a big pay raise in free agency. So now the Yankees are picking up the tab for the numbers Damon put up in Boston. And that just irks me a little bit.

It seems these “blank” or “blank” games are becoming bigger and bigger – Contender or Pretender and Fact or Fiction on ESPN, Stephen Colbert’s Tip of the Hat or Wag of the Finger, or even Bill Simmons’s Fraud or Foe. So today we’re going to play “Notch in his belt” or “A hair off his head” with Damon.

He’s a leadoff hitting center fielder. Obvious notch in his belt. Personally, I didn’t see a pressing need to find a leadoff hitter this off-season, since Jeter proved that he can more than adequately man the lineup slot. But with a top three of Damon, Jeter, and hopefully Giambi, opposing pitchers will be worked over in the first inning, which is conducive to the Yanks strategy of working starting pitchers deep into counts in order to see bullpen arms earlier.

His massive ego. A few hairs off his head here. As I’ve been saying, the Yankees are a team that gelled over the last few months of 2005, and the last thing they need is someone with a big head coming in and shaking up the locker room. I understand Johnny may be excited to be in his new home, but he’d serve everyone well by keeping his mouth shut and following suit upon arrival. Unfortunately, I see him trying to jump right into the party.

His rinky-dink arm. Another hair off his head. The problem with center field last year wasn’t just Bernie’s diminished range, but the fact that his sub-par arm allowed speedy runners to take the extra base. And considering the Yanks most formidable foe this year may be the White Sox, this could still be problematic.

Strikeout to walk ratio. Gotta give Johnny another notch in his belt for this one. 2005 was actually Johnny’s worst year in this category since 1998, but he’ll surely see more pitches to hit with Derek Jeter behind him rather than Edgar Renteria.

Pull power. Yes, Johnny Damon gets another notch in his belt because he has some power to right field, which is ideal in Yankee Stadium. True, he hits well to all fields, but with some added pop to right, he should see a spike in his power numbers, even in the leadoff slot.

100 runs, 30 doubles. Yeah, yeah, his belt is filling up pretty quick. Of course, there is no guarantee that he puts up these numbers, but the last time he didn’t was 1997.

He has a ring. Notch in his belt, but hair off his head because it was with the Sawks.

His hair/beard Certainly a hair off his head.

His contract Hair off his head, mainly because the Yanks will be regretting at least $13 mil of that deal, possibly $26, which equates to half the damn contract.

The Yankees mentality (or at least the mentality of the front office) is to win now, and locking up Damon facilitates that M.O. The signing isn’t all bad, and as I said before, the worst part is the relatively long term investment (he is 32, after all). Still, there is no denying that he’ll help the club (I wanted to say tremendously, but decided better not to) in 2006 and 2007, putting the Yanks in prime position to return to the elusive World Series.

Oh, and ESPN’s ticker is reporting that the Yanks just re-signed Bernie, which means the outfield is solidified. Problem there is that there is really no one to spell Sheff in right, unless the team wants to take a chance with Bubba’s average arm out there.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Cold Calling

The most noticeable trend for the Yankees this winter has been "failing" to sign big name free agents, even though they technically have been in the hunt for many of them. And I put "failing" in quotes because it might not be much of a failure at all after everything is considered.

The folks over at have spearheaded this new campaign, railing against Joe Torre’s phone calls to prospective free agents. Even SG over at Replacement Level jumped on the bandwagon, publicly hoping that Torre doesn’t place a call to the newest target, reliever Octavio Dotel.

Remember, though, that Torre isn’t just saying, "hey, kid, we like you and want you to be on the Yankees." According to him, "The only reason I talk to players is not to talk them into coming to New York but just to let them know that, yeah, New York is different. But it's exciting ...".

I penned an article a few weeks back entitled On Free Agency, in which I talked about "guts" as an imperative trait for success in New York. It seems like these phone calls are screening out guys who don’t have the mental makeup to succeed amidst amplified pressure. So why are people complaining then?

Simply put, it’s because we’re spoiled as Yankees fans. Each winter it seems the team lands another big name free agent. So after being spurned by the top guys this year, disappointment is only a natural reaction. And when there’s someone in direct line for blame, we can all wag our collective fingers at him. But I just can’t hop on the "blame Torre" bandwagon.

In fact, these phone calls that apparently deter free agents from taking up residence in the Bronx are much more beneficial than harmful. The Yankees have a solid core of starters coming back, a core that grew as a team as the 2005 season progressed. In April, they were a collection of egos trying (and failing for the most part) to win ballgames. But by September, they were a group of guys fighting for each other. Sure, the bowed out in the ALDS, but that was following a September where every game was, in essence, a playoff game.

The last thing the Yanks need is a guy with a questionable makeup coming in and disturbing the balance. Sure, I wanted to see Brian Giles in the outfield for the next few years just as much as the next guy. Problem is, he never wanted to leave San Diego. I’m sure the second Kevin Towers muttered the words “30 million,” Giles put pen to paper. And while the Yankees would benefit from his bat, how would his desire to still be in San Diego affect his play and the team? Or how about Nomar, who everyone seemed to warm up to once talks got serious?

Look, the Yanks already have a high-powered offense, so adding another big bat isn’t of the utmost concern. If they can sign someone to take the bulk of the time at DH and/or right field, so be it. But it’s not a real necessity. To start the season, I’d be fine with Andy Phillips, Bernie, and Giambi rotating in the DH slot. Remember, the market for players will get better as the season progresses. No one really knows where they stand now; they’ll know better come June and July.

My message to Joe Torre: keep calling potential free agents, and keep warning them about the perils of New York. If after that they think they can handle it, I’d welcome them to the team. But if they hear Torre’s speech and think the Bronx isn’t for them, well, then I guess I’m happy Joe made the call. Nothing worse than a guy that folds under pressure.

The more I think about it, the less worried I am about the 2006 Yankees.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Staten Island Yankees

How much talent can one expect to find in a short-season A-Level team? With all the other minor league options, it would seem that sending a guy to a short-season A team is like sending him to the Island of Misfit Toys. For the Yankees, that island is Staten Island, home of, well, the Yankees. This level may not be chock full of talent, but if they have one asset, it’s youth. Not one player on the roster exceeds the age of 23.

Another problem inherent with Staten Island is the teeny sample size presented. Since it is a short-season team, there is in reality a 290 or 300 AB cap, and most players don’t reach those heights. In fact, only six guys on the team had over 200 ABs, so it only makes sense that those six players are the only ones in consideration.

Kyle Larsen, Brett Gardner, and Eduardo Nunez are the position players, and though it’s even tougher to find pitching, James Conroy, Joshua Schmidt, and Cory Stuart have to be considered as well.

Larsen seems to be the most intriguing of the bunch, a 6’5”, 240 pound, 22-year-old lefty first baseman. His frame is conducive to mashing the ball, and he showed that during the season for Staten Island:


All around impressive numbers. It is quite a relief to see a guy who can hit for power (tied for the team high with 19 doubles and 6 homers) without striking out a ton. And while his size may be a relief to some, it really has me wondering if he’s just a big boy overpowering the little men. I would like to see him start in Trenton, the two guys who played in Charleston last year have a better shot of moving up. So I guess it’s Charleston for Larsen in 2006.

Eduardo Nunez is ranked as the Yankees sixth best prospect, according to Baseball America’s Jim Callis. And considering he is a mere 18 years old, his ceiling has to be quite high at this point. Problem is, he plays shortstop. The light here is that, like C.J. Henry, he will probably be Major League ready by the time Jeter is unable to continue at the position. Nunez’s numbers at Staten Island:


So there is reaon to get a little excited for his 2006 season, presumably with Charleston. I would expect his average to regress a bit given the higher level of play, meaning that a key to his success is going to be taking pitches. That 6.53 AB/SO number is acceptable, but to fall further below that could be problematic. The development of Nunez could give the Yanks some options, though. If he develops quickly, he could be an adequate bargaining chip come July. Should he take the slow and steady path, he could be ready for the Majors in a few years, once again, in time for Jeter’s declining years.

Brett Gardner is under consideration merely for his speed and the fact that he plays center field. Melky Cabrera may seem like a more promising prospect, but Gardner didn’t have a shabby season in Staten Island.


Add to that 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts (90%), and we have a viable prospect here. I’d love to see Gardner start the season in Trenton, with Melky in Columbus. If nothing else, having Gardner in the system makes me feel a bit better about trading Cabrera, which may become an option come July. The blurb from Baseball America:

College of Charleston was one of the nation's most explosive offensive clubs, owing chiefly to leadoff man Brett Gardner, who should go in the first 10 rounds. Some scouts consider him a true leadoff threat because he has top-of-the-line speed, rating an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Gardner used his speed to rank among the national leaders in hits, batting and stolen bases. Gardner has first-step quickness and is at top speed after one or two steps, and he reminds scouts of Devil Rays prospect Joey Gathright with his explosiveness. He also stays within himself offensively with a flat swing that sprays line drives and hard ground balls; he rarely flies out. His instincts are solid and he has room for improvement defensively and with his bunting.

I’ll move on to the pitching now, but in reality, I doubt any of these guys will make it to the bigs, so I’m not going to spend a lot of time on them. James Conroy is the only one with a decent sample size, 66.1 innings, and even that isn’t very telling. However, he struck out 67 over that span while walking 20, and did post a 2.02 ERA. There is some promise there, and at 6’4”, he’s got the frame. But, he is 23, so there is the ever-present possibility that he’s picking on the younguns.

I actually like Joshua Schmidt and Cory Stuart more, but they didn’t tally many innings, so whatever I say right here could be 100 percent false come next year when they’re pitching full seasons. And, like Conroy, they’re both 23. But let’s look at their numbers anyway.


Both of them have stellar numbers, but the small sample size has me wondering. Obviously they wouldn’t keep up the ERA pace over a full season. But if somehow they could keep their walk and strikeout totals in check, these guys could find some success at a higher level. Problem is, it’s much easier to say “keep those strikeouts up and those walks low” than to actually, you know, do it.

So it seems Staten Island is a bit more interesting than I had envisioned. These six guys will be fun to follow next year, mainly because they’ll be playing in Tampa or Charleston – or hell, even Trenton, which will give them a full season, rather than the shortened season offered on the Island. Three teams down, two to go. The Quest for the 2008 Roster will continue with Trenton sometime this week.